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Court: Granting New York Times Request for List of Gun Owners Would Be Illegal

The New York Times claims it was hacked by the Chinese. (Photo: Erika Cross /


Soon after the "Journal News" published the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in several New York City neighborhoods, A New York appellate court has partially overturned a lower court's ruling and determined that the New York Times' request for a list of gun owners and reported hate crimes is in violation of state law.

This means, according to the Weekly Standard, that it was also in violation of the law to give the list to outlets like the Journal News.

The extremely legalistic text of the ruling begins (all subsequent emphasis added):

Order and judgment (one paper), Supreme Court, New York County (Jane S. Solomon, J.),entered November 1, 2011, granting the petition to the extent it sought an order directing respondent, under the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law § 84 et seq.) (FOIL), to provide an electronic copy of a database, as redacted, of names and addresses of New York City residents who have been granted handgun licenses, and a database, to be redacted, of hate crimes reported to respondent from January 1, 2005 to the present, and denying the petition to the extent it sought an order directing respondent to provide an electronic copy of its crime incident database, a declaration that respondent's practices in responding to FOIL requests violate the statute, and an order directing respondent to cease these practices, unanimously modified, on the law, to deny the petition as to the databases of handgun licensees and hate crimes and to reinstate the petition with respect to the demand for the crime incident database, insofar as it seeks production of the electronic crime incident database produced in Floyd v City of New York (08 Civ 01034 [SAS] [US Dist Ct, SD NY]) (the Floyd database), and the matter remitted to Supreme Court for a determination of whether production of the Floyd database should be ordered, and, if so, to what extent and under what conditions, and otherwise affirmed, without costs.

The court correctly declined to declare that respondent's responses to FOIL requests and rulings on administrative appeals are as a matter of practice untimely and to order respondent to cease this practice. The FOIL requester's statutory remedy for an untimely response or ruling is to deem the response a denial and commence a CPLR article 78 proceeding "for review of such denial" (Public Officers Law § 89[4][a],[b]; Matter of Miller v New York State Dept. of Transp., 58 AD3d 981, 983 [3d Dept 2009], lv denied 12 NY3d 712 [2009]). Review of a FOIL determination does not provide for mandamus relief (see Matter of Harvey v Hynes, 174 Misc 2d 174, 177 [Sup Ct, Kings County 1997]).

The Weekly Standard adds:

The appellate court rules that a lower court erred by ordering the release of "the home addresses of handgun licensees in electronic form."...The fact that Penal Law § 400.00(5) makes the name and address of a handgun license holder "a public record" is not dispositive of whether respondent can assert the privacy and safety exemptions to FOIL disclosure, especially when petitioners seek the names and addresses in electronic form... In addition, "[d]isclosing a person's home address implicates a heightened privacy concern"...

The ruling adds, "However, the Floyd database was produced in an unrelated federal action, governed by very different standards from those that govern public access to records under FOIL...Further, the database was produced pursuant to strict confidentiality requirements, which indicates that disclosure to the [*4]general public would, at a minimum, raise serious confidentiality and privacy concerns. Accordingly, we remand to Supreme Court to determine whether the Floyd database should be released, and if so, under what conditions."

If all that seemed so legalistic it was barely legible, you're probably not alone in thinking that.  The gist seems to be that the New York Times won't be getting a list of gun owners anytime soon.

​Click here to read the entire ruling.

(H/T: Weekly Standard)



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